Episode 5 – Training

training

Want to be a proofreader? Wondering about proofreading training? Are you a possible client wondering about my professional qualifications?

In this episode I go into more detail about my ongoing training to develop my proofreading business. In previous episodes (Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3 and Episode 4) I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelance providing proofreading services after decades as a primary school teacher.

If you are confused about what proofreading training to do (and training is VITAL to show your professionalism) this blog may help you make up your mind. Especially if, like me, you have no background in publishing.

Learning something new

After three decades as a primary school teacher, I had succumbed to work-related stress and was on sick leave for five months. Then I had to come to terms with a dawning and daunting fact: a life I had known for 30 years was coming to an end. I was desperate to find a Plan B.

The medication for my newly discovered heart problem (atrial fibrillation) was taking time to embed, and I looked for something to take my mind off my worries. I saw an advert in a magazine for a proofreading course and thought – marking’s my thing, why don’t I try it?

Chapterhouse Publishing

The course was the Chapterhouse Correspondence Course in Proofreading and Copy-editing. I was eager to change direction. I pottered through the course while ‘lunching with ladies’, enjoying my recovery. It took me six months to undertake each section of the four modules. I was happy with what I learnt in the proofreading basics: the 2005 BSI proof correction marks, shorter and longer exercises to practise using the symbols. The exercises are all done on hard copy with red and blue pen! However, copy-editing confused me.

This all happened before my business and website was a twinkle in my eye. But the thought was in the back of my mind. I registered as unemployed, and as detailed in Episode 2, subsequently applied for the New Enterprise Allowance.

My Business Plan was as follows:

  1. Become a member of the SfEP (now CIEP).
  2. Start training …
  3. (and so on)

Of course, if I had known then what I know now … Now I am aware that the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) and the PTC (Publishing Training Centre) offer some of the most reputable training in proofreading and copy-editing.

Courses

So, during the time I have owned my business Proofnow Proofreader (at this point in my third year), I have ticked off the following courses:

  • Proofreading Progress
  • References
  • Getting Work with Non-publishers
  • Educational Publishing Development Day

There follows a brief summary and my take on each course. These have contributed to my upgrade from Entry Member to Intermediate. For all the courses, you are appointed a tutor and given login details to a forum for students within the course section, to ask questions within a safe environment.

Here is the link to the Training page of the website.

Proofreading 2: Progress (Was P2 now P3)

As I had already got the basics in proofreading knowledge, I headed towards the online course ‘Proofreading Progress’. (Then P2. Now the final of three.) I learnt LOADS more, got confused many times, then thankfully reached surprising clarity and confidence. Grade: Pass!

I was now able to add my qualification to my website with pride.

References Course

My main motivation for doing this particular course was that up, until now, I had worked solely with students, proofreading theses and dissertations. I could justify charging more for services if I could offer more skills. As with all the courses, I found out that there was much more to references than I imagined.

It is an online self-assessment course which means that you learn the facts, take the test at the end of each exercise, check the answers, and move to the next exercise. The concepts covered include the systems of author-date, short-title, and number systems. A useful tip I picked up was to use the software Edifix.

Finally, you print the certificate to confirm completion of the course. It was the hardest course I have ever done. I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. But I learnt a massive amount about a huge variety of references. My notes will be referred to when I need them.

Getting Work with Non-publishers

By February 2018, I wanted to take on a course run as a workshop, to enable networking and discussion with fellow students. I headed to the training building in London and met eight proofreaders/editors/project managers doing the course – all fellow members. Some of whom had been working for educational publishers. But who wanted out and onto other opportunites. Eagerly, I took their contact details as this was one of the routes into publishing I was looking for …

During the day’s workshop we learnt about considering other fields outside publishing, e.g. businesses, large charities, government; how to market ourselves; and how to approach potential clients.  The workshop made us think ‘outside the box’. (This course is no longer available.)

Educational Publishing Development Day

When I saw this advertised, I couldn’t resist – education – it was right up my street! It was booked months in advance, such was its popularity and the calibre of speakers. Again, I headed up to the training building and found myself in a large room with upwards of 80 delegates. But I recognised some faces, thank goodness, and it was lovely to reconnect with members from around the UK.  (Organised by Anya Hastwell – then the professional development director.)

Two speakers who stood out were:

  • Sophie O’Rourke – Managing Director at emc design. She covered what freelancers need to know about the current requirements of educational publishers.
  • Astrid deRidder – Head of Global Custom Publishing at Macmillan Education [international/ELT focus]. Very entertaining and knowledgeable about making educational textbooks relevant to international and particular cultures.

Technology

As someone who has used textbooks in the Primary classroom for decades, I find the development of e-learning materials most interesting. For at least the last 10 years, starting with the installation of interactive whiteboards and projectors, and each teacher being given a laptop, the developing complexity of technology has been exciting. Coupled with the changing of the National Curriculums from the government of the day has led to startling changes in the way teaching and learning happens in the classroom.

E-learning

The arrival in schools of banks of iPads added a new layer of excitement when used as a resource in subjects like ICT (Information and Communication Technology). Though now I think it’s just called Computing (Primary Curriculum 2018). The devices made Guided Reading group sessions very popular, using the Pearson scheme called Bug Club.

My favourite new technology is augmented reality, e.g. pictures in books being brought to life by an app. I think. I first saw this in practice in an EYFS (Reception) class of 4-5 year olds. It really got their attention!

Mentoring and being mentored

I have been fortunate that I have been able to invest in my ongoing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) with the SfEP over the last three years. What’s the expression? Speculate to accumulate.

My hope is to save enough over the next few months to take part in the mentoring scheme as a mentee. Plus attend the SfEP 2019 Conference. Booking is nearly open! We’ll all be asking questions. How about a blog about my last two conferences? Alright, if you insist.

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Episode 4 – To Business

business

This fourth episode details the business of preparing for proofreading jobs, and the administrative and accounting side of my proofreading business.

In previous episodes (Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3) I detailed my voyage towards becoming a freelance providing proofreading services after decades as a primary school teacher.

 

Paperwork

Who admits that they actually like paperwork?!

Me!

One of my strengths, I have found through the years, is that I am efficient at paperwork and recording. One of my roles in our household is handling the finances. So I was keen to start things properly as a business owner, and have legally binding templates in place. Three of the following I found on the SfEP website or recommended on forums:

  • Ts&Cs (Terms and Conditions)
  • invoices
  • feedback form to prompt a testimonial from a happy client
  • a recording system for paid invoices.

If you read this blog all the way to the end, you will find the link to free resource templates on my website, which you are welcome to tweak.

You soon discover, as a freelance, that you wear many *hats*. My job as a teacher was very similar – time had to be managed efficiently to fit it all in. One of the many *hats* you wear as a freelance sole-trader is that of business admin.

Once I had built a basic form of my website, I registered as self-employed for self-assessment with HMRC, then prepared the documents. Now I was ready for my first client … eek!

Where to find freelance jobs?

I see this question asked many times on Facebook freelance group pages and on the SfEP forums. “Where do you find opportunities for paid work?”

I signed up for Find a Proofreader. This was the directory I preferred to use to register my services. There is a wide selection of directories out there. There are also strong views about the poor rates offered. They are good to start with for experience. But that topic is not for now.

Initially, I targeted students, as education is my specialism. I followed the advice of Nick Jones (owner of FAP), from his session at the SfEP 2017 Conference, to make my profile as relevant as possible. Sadly, I have never been quick enough to land a proofreading job with this site. Your application has to be very quick off the mark – as soon as a query is sent out!

Universities are another source of work from students. I googled many universities and, in some cases, found the relevant proofreading guidelines page with their policy. I could, therefore, gauge the advice students were being offered.

My first proofreading job

I confess I didn’t know much about marketing when I first started my business. So, imagine my joy, three months after I had applied to be on the Register of Proofreaders at a major university in East Anglia, to receive a query from a student.

Once I had seen a sample, we agreed a rate per 1,000 words and the deadline for the return of the dissertation. She agreed to my T&Cs. I conscientiously got on with the job with fervour.

I finished the job in good time. When I returned her checked writing, I attached a copy of my invoice. I was lucky that she was a prompt payer; and that she was happy to give me a good testimonial about my thorough approach. An excellent first job. Phew!

Since then I have done proofreading for about 10 students, checking for errors and inconsistencies in spelling, punctuation, grammar and context.

Working with students

Of course there are issues around proofreading for students … How much of the writing do you change?

One non-English speaking student wasn’t happy with my proofreading when I sent the proofed dissertation chapter. He pointed out the *errors* I had *missed*. After enquiring, it transpired that he wanted his English to be improved. I recommended that he look for an editor with the permission of his supervisor.

As a result of the misunderstanding on his part, I tweaked the wording on the website page for student clients. To make my terms absolutely clear. I emphasised my role: to indicate errors only and with the permission of the supervisor. The SfEP have an excellent guide called Proofreading Theses and Dissertations’.

Payments, deposits and late payments

A question many people ask is “Will I earn enough to pay the bills?” The answer: It depends … Probably not to begin with, as, on average, it can take up to two years to grow your business to something sustainable. In fact, many people have a part-time job alongside editing or proofreading. I go out every afternoon to tutor Primary children – the change of scene does me good. Two other members of my family also have a *portfolio* of jobs: my husband, for example, has a gardening business to pay the bills alongside his other vocation of art. His week is a mixture of both.

How much you charge is another debate. A popular guide from the SfEP is ‘Pricing your Project’.

Bank transfer is the usual preference as a payment method by clients. Some freelances prefer, depending on circumstances, Paypal or Stripe, amongst others. Again I have observed many views on this subject.

A tip I have picked up from fellow SfEP-ers is to charge a deposit if the project is large, or going to be split over a few weeks. For one student client, I have charged 50%. But it depends on the freelancer and client. For example, that student wanted to send me module 1 to proofread immediately, then, a month later, module 2. She was happy. I was happy.

A huge and growing problem which freelances experience is those clients who pay late or, worse, not at all. A solution is to include a clause on your invoice explaining the Late Payment Fees. (See my invoice template.)

I have got used to spreadsheets. I record the invoice number next to the client name, the amount paid and when. This way my accounts are accurate and up-to-date for tax purposes.

Creative paperwork – no, not that kind!

When you are busy being creative with the images and banner (maybe even a logo?) on your company branding for your website and social media, here’s another tip. Remember to carry it through onto your business templates. It continues your personality and makes it consistent.

My to-do list …

Now (two years later) I have evolved with my business. More SfEP training and a wide range of networking has encouraged me to psych myself up to try a variety of marketing strategies. Imposter syndrome has a lot to answer for.

  • Cold email local businesses, such as Chambers of Commerce, to advertise my availability.
  • Advertise myself to more educational publishers to proofread Primary textbooks, now that I feel competent enough.
  • Provide proofreading specialisms to publishers of children’s fiction and non-fiction. I have discovered that this really excites me!

Therefore, my next job is to add to my spreadsheet of publishers to contact.

This involves listing the publisher/packager name, project manager/editor contact email, date of my introductory email sent, date of reply (if any). I am pleased to say that, out of the first 15 publishers I emailed, I had a positive reply from two! So have a 13% success rate. Which I’m told is good!

But it does mean investing a huge amount of emotional energy, which most of the time isn’t rewarded. But so worth it for the 10%. Learn to develop patience, persistence and perseverance. Or, put another way, ‘a dropped pebble starts ripples’.

Find free resources on my website. It can be very daunting starting your own business. If you want to ask questions or to share experiences, I’m here.

 

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux,  https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Credit: My resources are tweaked from the resources available on the website for the CIEP (formerly the Society of Editors and Proofreaders).

 

Episode 2 – Business Plan and Training

training goals

Welcome to my second blog post. In Episode 1, I told you a bit about myself and how I became a freelance proofreader. This post gives a bit more detail about my first goals: my business plan, proofreading training, and how I got here.

‘Here’ is actually the dining room of our Victorian-terraced house near Stansted Airport in Essex which doubles as my office.

Meanwhile, my husband has the luxury of his studio space (at the bottom of our 100-foot-long garden) to paint. His studio is next to the chicken coop, so he has company there, chatting away to the three clucking girls when stretching his legs. If you like birds, the theme develops … keep reading.

How did I get here to this point in my freelancing journey?

Teaching – my previous life

As a former primary teacher, I was trained in the primary ‘Talk for Writing’ project initiated by the poet Pie Corbett. He was asked by the government of the day to raise standards in Literacy.

His theory was that, in shared writing sessions with the class, as ideas are being discussed and written on large poster paper, children are encouraged to write their own version simultaneously. The children get swept along with the enthusiasm of the teacher and the drama of the story, in whichever genre was relevant for the age of the child, at that stage in the term (e.g. fantasy). A buzzing atmosphere would ensue.

Over a week of Literacy lessons, a hanging washing line of posters with beginning, middle and end parts stretched across the classroom.

A growing story and a sense of achievement took shape, with ideas magpie-ed by the children. They were allowed to ‘borrow shiny ideas’ to help one another. A few children felt secure when they knew that they could share ideas if they were faced with a blank page in front of them. Don’t we all need that reassurance? Evidence suggests that their independent writing would grow from practising together.

Writing a business plan

When I left teaching, I applied for the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) with the Job Centre. My Business Mentor helped me complete a Business Plan. Compiling the 20-page Business Plan took me a month of research and exploring strengths and weaknesses of the business I had in mind.

These were my learning takeaways:

  • Googling ‘proofreading’ and finding The SfEP at the top of Google!
  • Second on Google’s list was Louise Harnby and the treasures of her amazing website for editors and authors!
  • Doing a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). Finding proofreaders and businesses who I first thought of as competitors, but later discovered how supportive and encouraging they are.
  • What was my marketing strategy going to involve? Was I going to have a website? Was I going to do social media? The answer was a resounding YES. EVERYTHING.
  • Describing the goals and objectives of my business over the short term (0-1 year), medium term (2-3 years), and long term (4-5 years).
  • Describing the trends in my chosen market (students, academic, businesses and educational publishers).
  • Predicted expenditure on equipment and training? How much was I going to spend? Predicted income from proofreading and tutoring? How much was I going to charge?

If you are deciding at this point whether to strike out on your own or not, the business tools from the Princes Trust are recommended by others setting up as freelance. Planning and preparation are essential.

Proofreading training

I have read so many jewels of advice about how important training is. Preferably from a respected organisation such as the SfEP or PTC (Publishing Training Centre). By January 2017, I had registered with the SfEP, and because it was vital that I train first, by May of that year I had completed my final SfEP Proofreading Course. Also important was learning how to use the BSI symbols (British Standard Institution marks).

There is much discussion as to whether the symbols are valid these days as businesses and non-publishers are unaware of them and have no need of them. But, I felt, knowledge of their use added professionalism in case I got an opportunity to work in publishing – education in my case. They are like learning a new language, but I was happy to add them to my skillset.

For those considering or currently doing the Proofreading Courses, other skills you will learn are: proofreading against copy; proofreading blind; proofreading tables and references; and proof-editing vs proofreading in Word. You will find that proofreading is SO much more than you first thought.

You may prefer copyediting, which is also offered by the SfEP. Have a look at the wide range of courses offered – both core skills and editorial.

Ready, steady, go! 

The courses consolidated my knowledge and confidence. I was ready to take on work as a proofreader. My newly hatched website was designed and updated with my qualification. Now I could build experience. My next goal was looking for work in proofreading.

I was both excited and terrified about the possibilities, and of what the future would hold. Luckily, I have a supportive husband who would change his regular job to ensure a more consistent income, while I struck out with my fledgling business Proofnow Proofreader.

Initially I would focus my marketing efforts on students. Well it made sense with education being my specialism. I also started tutoring primary children in the afternoons to help pay the bills.

In my next blog post, I will describe the process of choosing and designing my website and researching the content marketing world of social media.

Happy new beginnings!

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Proofread by Lisa de Caux, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk

Episode 1 – How I Started

Hello – and welcome to my first blog post as a newbie freelance proofreader. I know, it was a surprise to me too!

blogging proofreader

The year is 2018. I have been in business as a self-employed proofreader for 22 months (yep, almost two years!). Up until now I have always smiled silently when my fellow networkers at the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders), now the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), folk would say, “How about writing a blog, then? You’d be really good at it.” My reply was always, “Och no, I don’t think so! I check the writing of others, not write myself.”

Why now?

But over the last few months, I have had a slow, burning change of mind and heart: by reading a variety of blogs recounting the wide range of experiences at the latest SfEP Annual Conference, held in Lancaster in September; by reading the blogs written by new SfEP-ers about their experiences of feeling the same terror of revealing their inner thoughts. These have all encouraged me that it is necessary to consider plunging into the world of blogging. So, with my SfEP parachute for support, here we go …

Fears

However, there were decisions to be made IF I decided to go ahead:

  • If I organised myself enough to commit to blogging once a month, once regular deadlines were met. Planning was needed.
  • If I could find enough topics to write about – turns out there’s plenty of advice out there about how to find subjects to write about.
  • If it meant it would lead to more business as a proofreader by promoting my website through my blog …

Research

I set about doing research into the skills of, and theory behind, being ‘a blogger’. Following certain content marketing gurus on social media, bookmarking advice offered by more experienced bloggers who happen to be fellow editors and proofreaders. I’ve done a LOT of reading. And persuaded myself to ‘bite the bullet’.

Biting bullets

There has been much ‘biting of bullets’ over the last two years …

  • when I found the courage to leave full-time primary teaching after three decades, giving up the main family income.
  • when my local Job Centre helped me write a New Enterprise Allowance Business Plan.
  • when I joined the SfEP and completed two proofreading courses.
  • when I built my website, ordered my business cards, and invested some inheritance in my new company.
  • when I started networking with local freelancers IRL (In Real Life), on the SfEP forums, and in local groups.
  • when I answered my first proofreading job query, sent out my first contract to my first student client, and invoiced on completion of my proofreading of her dissertation.
  • when I carried out my first private tutoring job with a primary pupil after not teaching for 18 months.

All nerve-wracking stuff. All to be developed in detail in my ‘How I got to this point’ blogs to follow.

Name for my blog? Describe me

So –  to choose the name for my blog. As SfEP colleagues who attended the last two Annual Conferences will know, I stand out. Because I am 6 feet tall. I can be spotted across a crowded room. Helen Stevens, a fellow lofty SfEP-er, commented to me at Conference, “It’s good to talk to someone taller than me!”.

I am also proud to have held onto my lilting Scottish accent. I spent my first 23 years living in Paisley, Scotland. I consider myself Scottish. Having said that, the last 30 years of my life have been spent in the pretty countryside of north Essex, in East Anglia, immortalised in my husband’s oil paintings.

A family conference (on much more important matters) finished with me uttering, “So I’ve thought of a name for my blog. What do you think …?”.

What followed was a flowing of ideas, several changes of direction, discussion and debate. You know that feeling when you wish you’d never started something.  Anyway, the name Tall Tartan Tells was born. (We thought that Tall Tales might … not give the professional image I was after. The name changed after a few blogs to Tall Tartan Talks.)

The future

So I have started blogging, and I look forward to sharing my experiences as a new business owner, proofreader and tutor, while giving useful tips along the way about what I’ve learnt.

I’m sure, if you’re a newbie freelancer, you will be having the same doubts, fears and excitements that I had. Why not share your experiences?

Have some flowers. My pleasure.

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Proofread by Lisa De Caux, SfEP Intermediate Level Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk